The season is about one fifth complete and the team making the most news over the past week also has baseball’s best record.
At 22-11 the Los Angeles Dodgers have already opened up a 4½-game lead in the NL West, arguably baseball’s weakest division. But the big news out of Los Angeles was last week’s 50-game suspension handed down to slugger Manny Ramirez who failed a test last week for Performance Enhancing Drugs.
The loss of Manny’s bat until early July is sure to affect the Dodgers offense, but manager Joe Torre has a deep team that has gotten surprisingly strong pitching both from the starters and the bullpen. The Dodgers have lost three of four games without Ramirez, but the offense did plate 23 runs.
It would not surprise if the Dodgers play .500 ball during Manny’s absence yet still extend their lead in the division despite what would be a 25-25 record.
The team with the American League’s best record is certainly a surprise as Toronto was expected to contend with Baltimore to avoid the cellar in the AL East. It’s still early and the Toronto starting rotation has been ravaged by injuries, which makes the 22-12 start all the more remarkable.
The Blue Jays begin the week with a one game lead over Boston, which has been without star first baseman Kevin Youkilis for the past week. Reig ning MVP Dustin Pedroia was banged up Sunday night, but the second baseman is not expected to miss more than a game or two before returning to the lineup.
Boston’s AL East rival, the New York Yankees, were bolstered by the earlier than planned return of star Alex Rodriguez, who homered on the first pitch he saw this season last Friday in Baltimore. But the Yanks continue to be plagued by poor pitching up and down the staff. Their overall ERA of 5.79 trails only Cleveland’s 5.83 as baseball’s worst.
The first managerial change of the season took place over the weekend as Arizona axed Bob Melvin. Arizona’s 13-19 start has been disappointing as the Snakes were expected to challenge the Dodgers in the NL West.
Next to go may well be Cleveland’s Eric Wedge. The Indians have struggled to a dismal 11-21 start in the very mediocre AL Central. The Tribe was swept at home over the weekend by Division rival Detroit and a similar showing in the home series with Chicago to start the week could well have him exiting stage left before this coming weekend.
The hottest team starting the week is the New York Mets, winners of seven in a row through Sunday. But it’s May, not September. After witnessing monumental collapses the past two seasons, Mets fans should not start to get excited no matter how much of a lead their team may open in the NL East.
St. Louis continues to play outstanding ball and the 20-12 record is best in the NL Central.
Here’s a look at four series to be played this weekend:
Dodgers at Marlins: The Dodgers rank third in batting average (.285) and second in team ERA (3.77). The Marlins are towards the bottom on offense.
• Marlins as underdogs or -125 favorites in starts by Josh Johnson and Chris Volstad.
• Dodgers as underdogs facing Johnson or Volstad.
• Dodgers -130 vs other Marlins.
• Under 8 if Johnson or Volstad oppose Chad Billingsley.
• Under 9 in starts by Randy Wolf, Eric Stults or Clayton Kershaw vs Johnson or Volstad.
• Over 9 in other matchups.
Brewers at Cards: The Brewers have gotten decent starting pitching. Yovani Gallardo has been the best of a capable five-man rotation. The Cards have gotten decent starting pitching with Joel Pineiro putting up the best numbers.
• Brewers as underdogs in starts by Gallardo or David Bush.
• Cards -130 in starts by Pineiro, Adam Wainwright or Kyle Lohse except vs Bush and Gallardo.
• Over 8 in any matchup.
• Over 9 not with Bush, Gallardo, Pineiro or Wainwright.
Twins at Yankees: This is a four game series that ends next Monday. Both Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer and Yanks third baseman Alex Rodriquez are back. The New Yankee Stadium has homers flying out with regularity. The over is 9-3-1 there, averaging 12.8 runs per game.
• Over 10 or lower in any matchup except starts by Yanks’ CC Sabathia or Joba Chamberlain.
• Yankees -150 or Twins +180 in any matchup.
Red Sox at Mariners: Boston should have Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia back in the lineup. The M’s have gotten very strong starting pitching from lefties Eric Bedard and Jarrod Washburn but the rest of the rotation has been average.
• Red Sox as underdogs in any matchup.
• Red Sox -125 not facing Bedard, Felix Hernandez or Washburn.
• Over 10 with Seattle’s Chris Jakubauskas.
• Under 9 if Boston’s Josh Beckett, Jon Lester or Tim Wakefield oppose Bedard, Hernandez or Washburn.
Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Andy Iskoe